I’ve spent almost my entire life on the East Coast. I was a misfit in high school and always imagined I would end up in New York with the rest of my kind. Going to college in New Jersey, my first thoughts about Montréal drifted in across dorm room halls. I snatched details from conversations between Ugg Boot-clad sorority sisters planning spring break trips that (it should go without saying) I was most certainly not invited on. It seemed like a place where my socially well-adjusted (and still very much underage) peers could rent hotel rooms, perpetuate American stereotypes and get smashed on cheap, shitty beer. In this context, I was only vestigially aware of our northern neighbor as it starred in bravado filled vacation stories.
I grew older... Montréal was again a topic of conversation. This time mentioned as the hometown of various artists, skateboarders, hip-hop and indie musicians. and perhaps most unlikely, a fiercely independent, nascent bike culture. Montréal began to feel like a long lost cousin, a metropolitan city famous for its European sensibilities, outrageously good food, and a similar sense of city kid counterculture. Preparing to visit Montréal for the first time, I had only an abstract idea of what I might find.